Cutting-Edge UAS Program That Delivers Aerospace Jobs and Training

North Carolina’s Tradition of Aviation Firsts Continues ...

aerospaceIn the heart of the MidAtlantic Defense and Aerospace Corridor, the future of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) is in its infancy – but the promise of opportunity for new aerospace jobs and an economic boost is undeniable.

With a long history of aviation innovation stretching all the way back to the Wright brother’s inaugural flight, North Carolina has always stayed on the cutting edge of this adventurous industry. The region’s rich air heritage includes the Norfolk Naval Base, NASA Langley Research Center, Norfolk International Airport, Newport New Williamsburg International Airport and Currituck's regional airport. The Currituck County Airport has partnered with College of The Albemarle to offer an Aviation Maintenance Technology course, which prepares students for FAA Part 147 certification in a new, state-of-the-art 40,000 square foot training and workforce development-oriented facility.

What are Unmanned Aircraft Systems?

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) are aircraft without a human pilot aboard, and are also referred to as drones, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), unpiloted aerial vehicles or remotely piloted aircraft (RPA).

UAS flights are controlled either by onboard computers or by the remote control of a pilot on the ground or in another vehicle. They are usually deployed for military and special operation applications, but are also in use for a small but growing number of civil applications, such as policing, firefighting, or inspecting power or pipelines.

How Might the UAS Industry Benefit the North Carolina Economy and Provide New Aerospace Jobs?

Although the FAA currently bans commercial use of UAS, it is commonly expected that this legislation will eventually be changed to allow for specific commercial uses, albeit with requirements for very tight security and privacy measures. Currently, the market for UAS is limited to the defense and security sectors.

North Carolina’s Division of Aviation, part of the state’s transportation department, has developed a test range at Engelhard Airport in Hyde County where private companies and academic researchers try out unmanned aircraft. The goal is to provide the facilities and resources for research and development.

Currituck County is already proving to be fertile ground in the emerging UAS industry. Security services and federal contractor ACADEMI has been granted permission to fly and test UAS on their 7,000 acre training center in Moyock, NC. The ACADEMI training center is a key facility for the NextGen Air Transportation (NGAT) program at North Carolina State University, a non-profit partnership of academia, industry and government, charged by the federal government to address safety and airspace management issues UAS will cause. In addition, the College of The Albemarle’s Regional Aviation & Technical Training Center in Barco, NC is an outstanding option to provide aviation training for UAS applications, specifically in composites, design and avionics.

A 2013 Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International report on the economic impacts of UAS predicts that within the first three years of commercialization, UAS could have an economic impact of more than $13.6 billion, and by 2025 that number could exceed more than $80 billion.mates They estimate the industry could create nearly 1,200 aerospace jobs and $600 million in economic activity in North Carolina by 2025.

The resulting potential aerospace jobs creation and industry could include:

  • Equipment design and manufacturing
  • Training
  • Data collection and analysis
  • Maintenance technicians

“I hope the people that represent the citizens of North Carolina understand that there are remarkable job opportunities out there for growth,” said Rep. John Torbett, co-chairman of the (House Committee on Unmanned Aircraft Systems) drone committee. “This is a new market. This is a relatively innovative, fresh market with unknown applications at this time.” (News & Observer, 04/23/14)

Learn more about the Midatlantic Defense and Aviation Corridor, the critical aerospace industry infrastructure in northeastern North Carolina – specifically in Currituck County, and the potential for new aerospace jobs by contacting us


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